The Myrtle-Broadway station in Bushwick, Brooklyn is characterized by an above ground J-train and corner store owners beckoning people inside with enthusiastic Spanish music. At the Jefferson station a few streets down the subway retreats underground and the vivacious Latino music is replaced with the soft buzz of indie rock and smell of locally crafted beers. Gentrification brought trendy bars to Brooklyn over time, and to Bushwick over night.
With the growing popularity of Bushwick local bars have had to face greater competition and an increase in commercial real estate prices. Nigel Shamash, realtor at 5 Boroughs Commercial Real Estate, said that Bushwick commercial real estate prices has risen 100 percemnt compared to last year, from $20 per square foot to $40 to $50. Older bars do not have to deal with the recent price increases due to commercial leases typically being 5 to 10 years in length.
Regardless, in the past two weeks alone two additional bars joined the neighborhood. Jamie Schmitz, co-owner of The Rookery, celebrated the one week anniversary of its opening. When asked about running a successful business in a neighborhood full of trendy new spots, he smiled.
“It’s not a competition. It’s unique here,” said Schmitz. “All the bars new and old are excited about what’s going on here. We’re all business owners.”
An older bar, Kings County, has relied on its loyal regulars for continued business. Although it opened in 2004, Kings County was initially a private bar. The founding owner, fondly known as Chops, publicly opened the bar on a dare. He sold the bar in 2008 on one condition: that everything be left the same. In the midst of hot spots for twenty-somethings, that attitude still remains.
“This is a neighborhood clubhouse,” said bartender Bobbie Chaset. During her past four years at Kings County she has served enough locals to match a drink to a face upon a regular entering. “We get a lot of locals. If you ask the regulars, they don’t want to see new faces.”
Charles Lear, a regular at Kings County, has mixed feelings about the ongoing gentrification. Compared to the Lower East Side, where Lear grew up, Bushwick’s gentrification came much more rapidly.
“It was almost overnight. I was walking down the street and I saw a string of young people. It’s like a tour bus opened up,” he said. “At first I felt threatened, but every generation deserves a chance to express themselves.”
As the sun sets on Bushwick the corner stores turn off their upbeat music and head for the delayed J-train. But a few streets down hipsters still roam, indie rock still occupies the air and locally crafted beer is a fixture for the night.